Mark 9:50 – see Matthew 5:13 (I missed it in Matthew) – “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.” NIV
Jesus initially used this question in the Sermon on the Mount after He had told His listeners that they were “the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). Here in Mark’s Gospel He asks the same question but with a slightly different emphasis. Salt is a common necessary commodity that we take for granted in our day, but it was just as necessary but not quite as common in Jesus’ day. Salt was used to flavor and preserve food and as a healing and sterilizing agent. It influenced what it touched in a positive way, unless it was too contaminated with other ingredients to do its job.
This is Jesus’ picture for his followers of how they are to make a difference in their world by using godly influence. They can bring peace, healing, and vitality to life that others who are not following Jesus cannot bring if they will allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through them. However, if they become too contaminated with the ways and outlook of the world, they will cease to have the influence that God desires them to have. They will be no different than those without Jesus. Interestingly, there are various polls out there today who indicate that there is little difference in values and actions between Christians and non-Christians. This could be what Jesus was asking about.
In His day, if the salt was too polluted to use for food or medicine, it was usually thrown out onto a walking path. At least there whatever “salt” was left could be used to keep vegetation from growing on the path, and it would not contaminate good ground that could be used for planting crops.
Jesus’ question about saltiness spurs some questions about our own influence as His followers: If I were on trial for being a follower of Jesus, would there be enough evidence to convict me? What are some ways I may have allowed the current world view to affect my witness? Are there areas in my life where I have compromised what the Bible says? In what ways am I influencing my world for Jesus by bringing peace, healing, and hope into people’s lives?